If you’re looking for the ultimate definition, hold, and volume, a gel is the way to go! For a long time, the gel had a bad reputation for being too drying for curly hair. Finally, many gels are available on the market designed specifically for curly hair that will dry out or damage your hair.
In today’s post, I’ll help you find the perfect hair gel and show you my recommendations!
What is a gel?
Hair gel is a commonly used styling product that allows the user to manipulate and mold the hair into a particular style. The gel hardens around the hair, helping it to keep its shape for an extended period.
Hair gels can come in various textures, from extremely thick to a loose liquid-like texture with various degrees of holds or strengths.
The best Gel for Curly Hair
01 Bouclème Super Hold Styler Hair Gel
The Bouclème Super Hold Styler Hair Gel is a protein-free gel that will give your curls excellent definition for frizz-free results! In addition, it contains a lot of nourishing ingredients such as chia seed, agave, and kahuna nut oil. It’s also alcohol-free. Brand: Bouclème Quantity: 250 ml Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
02 Ecoslay Orange Marmalade
If you want super-defined curls, this curl-defining styling gel is perfect! It’s an innovative cream-gel hybrid that will give you an excellent hold while hydrating the hair. It’s flaxseed-based and fortified with xanthan gum to create a firm hold without harsh chemicals. Apply it to soaking wet hair for the best results. Brand: Ecoslay Size: 237 ml Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes Shelf Life: 9 months refrigerated; 3 months unrefrigerated
03 Ouidad Coil Infusion Give a Boost Styling + Shaping Gel Cream
Need a stronger hold? This innovative gel-cream hybrid will give you a beautiful definition without the crunch! Black castor oil and plant peptides will hydrate and lock in moisture while aloe soothes the hair and scalp.
Size: 250 ml
Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
04 Innersense I Create Hold Hair Gel
Innersense’s I Create Hold Hair Gel is Curly Girl Method approved and one of the best gel for curly hair! It has an excellent hold that will provide beautiful shine and definition. It contains a rice grain alcohol emollient that will not strip the hair of its moisture. In addition, botanical ingredients such as nettle, eucalyptus, and rooibos tea provide moisture, shine, and flexibility.
Brand: Innersense Quantity: 295 ml Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
05 Curlsmith Shape Up Aqua Gel
Curlsmith’s Shape Up Aqua Gel is an excellent styler for any curl or porosity! It’s lightly enriched with protein that will strengthen your hair! The protein levels are lower, so you can use it frequently without causing protein overload. It has a lightweight water-like texture that spreads quickly and evenly, so it will not weigh down finer hair types. However, because it is so lightweight, if you like extreme definition or have a tighter texture, you may find this gel too light. It does contain two types of alcohol, but they are not drying alcohols. Brand: Curlsmith Size: 237 ml Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
06 Bounce Curl Light Creme Hair Gel Lotion
If you need a great styling gel that’s lightweight, Bounce Curl’s Light Hold Crème Gel is for you! This fantastic gel provides beautiful volume, eliminates frizz, and enhances and defines your natural curl pattern. And because it has an ultra-thin consistency, you can easily touch up your hair the next day without accumulating too much product.Important to know: This styler doesn’t always mix well with other brands. So for best results, use it in conjunction with other Bounce Curl products.Brand: Bounce CurlQuantity: 238 mlCurly Girl method suitable: yes
07 Ouidad Coil Infusion Good Shape Defining Gel
Get the ultimate definition and staying power with the flake-free Defining Gel! This gel has a strong hold and will create long-lasting definition without stripping the hair of its natural moisture.
Size: 250 ml
Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
08 Suncoat Natural Styling Gel
This vegan gel is entirely alcohol-free and has an innovative 100% sugar base that nourishes curly hair! It has a lightweight texture that’s great for all curl types of porosity. Brand: Suncoat Size: 120 ml Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
09 Ecoslay Jello Shot Curl Defining Gel
If you want your curls to last for days, the Jello Shot Curl Defining Gel is your best choice. This gel product creates a hard cast on the hair that will lock your curls into place for frizz-free, ultra-defined results! Apply it to soaking wet hair for the best results. If you have dry hair, consider mixing it with the Orange Marmalade or using a leave-in conditioner before applying. Brand: Ecoslay Size: 473 ml Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes Shelf Life: 9 months refrigerated; 3 months unrefrigerated
10 Ouidad VitalCurl+ Tress Effects Styling Curl Gel
Lock those beautiful spiral curls into place and enjoy style longevity with this styling gel. It has a stronghold, and Ouidad’s innovative Memory Interlock Technology will reinforce the curl pattern for super-defined curls.
Size: 250 ml
Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
11 Tropikal Bliss Lime Zest Wonder Jelly
This incredible lightweight hair gel is Curly Girl Method-approved. It’s great for all curl and porosity types, as it’s protein-free! It has a beautiful citrus fragrance that’s uplifting and refreshing. However, if you’re extremely sensitive to fragrance, you may want to avoid this gel. Brand: Tropikal Bliss Quantity: 250 ml Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
12 Kinky Curly Curling Custard
Kinky Curly Curling Custard is one of the best gel for curly hair. This wonderful hair gel is entirely alcohol-free. It contains nourishing botanical ingredients such as aloe vera, chamomile, nettle, and marshmallow root that will impart moisture and shine! The texture is thicker, similar to flaxseed gel, and will provide an incredible hold for defined curls. Brand: Kinky Curly Size: 237 ml Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
13 Ouidad Curl Shaper Out Of Thin (H)Air Volumizing Jelly
Get a stronger hold and lock your beautiful waves or loose curls in place with this volumizing gel! Its weightless jelly texture encourages curl formation and adds volume and body to your hair.
Size: 251 ml
Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
14 As I am Smoothing Gel
This light hair gel will give you an excellent hold without weighing down your hair! It contains hydrolyzed wheat protein to strengthen the hair and is alcohol-free! Brand: As I Am Size: 237 ml Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
15 Eco Style Olive Oil Styling Gel
With Eco Style, you always get incredible value! This thick styling gel makes it perfect for tighter curl types that need a stronger hold. In addition, it’s alcohol-free and enriched with nourishing olive oil. Brand: Eco Style Size: 710 ml Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
16 Curlsmith Shine Jelly
Curlsmith’s Shine Jelly is an incredible styling gel that is vegan and fragrance-free, with a flexible medium hold. It’s suitable for all curl types of any texture or porosity as it’s protein-free. The formula is incredibly silky and lightweight, so it won’t weigh down your curls and imparts a beautiful shine. Brand: Curlsmith Size: 60 ml Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
17 Aunt Jackie's Don't Shrink Hair Gel
This rich gel is alcohol-free and extremely thick. It’s perfect for tighter curl patterns that need extra hold for great definition. It’s enriched with hydrolyzed wheat protein which will strengthen damaged curls. Brand: Aunt Jackie’s Size: 443 ml Curly Girl Method Suitable: Yes
When should I use gel?
The gel is your styling product. Therefore, you should use it after shampooing and conditioning the hair.
There are several ways of going about it! If you use the gel as your only styling product, apply it to damp hair straight out of the shower. Smooth it from root to tip to get the curls to clump together.
If you’re concerned about dryness, use the gel as a final step in your styling process. Start with your favorite hydrating styler, such as a leave-in conditioner and a curl cream, and follow it up with the gel.
You can let your hair air dry or use a hair diffuser. However, remember that the key to frizz-free and defined results is not agitating the hair too much as it dries!
What happens if I put gel on dry curly hair?
I don’t recommend using gel on dry hair. It can easily create a lot of build-up on the hair and become greasy. Water helps to dilute the gel so you can easily and evenly distribute it throughout the hair.
I only recommend using gel on dry hair if you’re trying to slick down flyaways or your baby hairs. However, you should use the gel sparingly if attempting this technique.
What’s better for curly hair – mousse, gel, or cream?
There’s no right or wrong answer. Each styling product is wonderful but for different reasons. The key to choosing the right one is understanding what type of look you’re trying to achieve.
If you’re looking for a styling product that hydrates your hair and has a soft feel, a curl cream is an excellent choice. However, due to the nature of the cream, it will not provide the strongest hold.
A mousse may be a better fit if you’re looking for volume. Mousse is lightweight, so it won’t weigh your hair down and will provide you with bouncy curls. However, it gives the least longevity of the three options. It’s also great at preventing frizz!
A gel will be the best option if you prefer a strong hold and super-defined results. However, gel typically will leave a cast on the hair, resulting in a crunchy feel. You can break the cast. However, it’s important to note that the cast provides style longevity.
Why does gel leave a cast on my hair?
When the film-forming ingredients in the gel dry, it can leave a cast or a “shell” around the hair strands. The purpose of the cast is to protect the hair while it’s drying. In addition, it will lock the style in place.
If you don’t like the feel of the cast, you can break it by gently scrunching the hair when it’s completely dry. However, it’s important to note that the longevity of your style will decrease slightly when the cast is broken prematurely.
If you want your style to last longer, leave the cast alone and let it naturally break over a few days.
Can I create my own hair gel for curly hair?
Yes! You can create your own natural hair gel using linseed or flaxseed at home. When these seeds are boiled, it releases mucilage and oils. When it cools, it thickens into a gel-like substance!
You have full control of your gel and can customize it by adding your favorite oils, conditioners, and treatments. However, keep in mind that the shelf life is not long, and it should be tossed after a week.
What should I look for in a gel for curly hair?
Hair gels can be extremely drying for all hair types as they typically contain alcohol. Hair gels can be tricker to choose from than other products.
The first thing that should always be listed in a gel is water! It may also be called aqua or eau.
The second thing to look for is natural film-forming humectants such as:
- Flaxseed Extract or Gel
- Linseed Extract or Gel
- Aloe Vera Gel (also called Aloe Barbadensis)
- Xanthan Gum
- Guar Gum
- Marshmallow Root
- Slippery Elm
Then, look for nourishing ingredients that will help combat dryness, such as:
- Oils: Coconut, argan, olive, jojoba, castor, etc.
- Botanical Extracts
- Amino Acids
- Panthenol (Provitamin B5)
What should I avoid in a gel?
You should always avoid:
- Mineral oils
Typically, it would be best if you also avoided alcohol, but when it comes to gel, it can get a bit tricky.
Truthfully, there’s no way to get around it. While alcohol-free is the best option, most hair gels contain alcohol. The alcohol provides a quick drying effect for the hair and is included in the formula for function and stability.
If your gel contains alcohol, it will likely be Benzyl Alcohol or Phenoxyethanol, which is okay. However, it is best if you avoid all other alcohol. Be on the lookout, particularly for these:
- Ethyl alcohol (also called “ethanol”)
- Isopropyl alcohol (also called IPA)
- Denatured alcohol (also listed as “alcohol denat”)
- Propyl alcohol
You can typically identify alcohols on the ingredient list if you see “propyl,” “prop,” “eth,” or “denatured” in the name.
I've been a curly girl since I was little. 💝 But it wasn't until I discovered the right curl care for me that I learned to understand my curls. I'm happy to pass all this on to you - so that you too can learn to love your curls.